French Expat Living in USA - Interview with Stéphanie

Published: 17 Feb at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,USA
Stefe,she's French and she lives in Chicago USA. She's a little crazy because she moved there with her husband and her cat while she was 7 months pregnant. The start was a little chaotic, finding a place to live, a doctor and hospital very fast,but she made it,and she's now the mother of a baby boy. He's a bilingual baby. She loves to move around and travels as much as she can afford it, sometimes alone with baby sometimes as a family. She also has big dreams, and wants to save money so the family can go travel the world.She's in Chicago for now and she lived in New York and in Copenhagen in Denmark when she was younger. Who knows where she'll be in a few years? Stéphanie's expat blog is called From home to there (see listing here)

This is leaving France, with Sardine our cat
This is leaving France, with Sardine our cat

Here's the interview with Stéphanie...

Where are you originally from?
France. I come from a small town called Tours, but I lived some many years in Bordeaux, I actually call it my hometown.

In which country and city are you living now?
Chicago USA

How long have you lived in USA and how long are you planning to stay?
I arrived in May 2015,so 9 months,and I'm not sure I'll stay. We maybe are planning on going in another US city,maybe next year?

8 months old pregnant me, arrived in Chicago
8 months old pregnant me, arrived in Chicago
Why did you move to USA and what do you do?
My husband is enrolled in a program to learn a new job skill,and I wanted to live somewhere that is not too expensive, but still a big city. I also wanted a French consulate nearby and an international airport. So far,I'm staying at home with baby, but soon,I'll try to find a job in the tourism industry.

Did you bring family with you?
Well my husband of course,and I was 7 months pregnant when I arrived. I also brought my cat with me!

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
If I go back to when I moved to New York in 2011, I would say I was lost! I had no idea where to go for food, what to eat and how to find a place to live. I was getting lost in the subway all the time, I was losing weight and I was trying to adapt to funky work schedules. In France, in general you get your lunch break around noon and in USA it was around 4pm, so I didn't know if it was my lunch or my dinner. When I arrived in Chicago last year,I knew a little more!

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Not really. I'm alone most of the time,at home with the baby, and I don't see how I can make friends now. I'm a little bit shy and besides small talk at the park,I'm mostly by myself. I'm ok to socialize with other expats, mostly online, but not necessarily from my country. I'll probably make friends when I go back to work.

Traveling with baby, the bassinet
Traveling with baby,the bassinet
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Chicago is a big city so you can just walk around the streets and see lots of cool places and shops. All the main museums are awesome. During summer, Lake Michigan is cool, you can go to the beach. There's also free movies all summer in Millennium Park. During winter, get a sleigh and go to a park!

What do you enjoy most about living in USA?
Here in the USA, most of the things! It's a country with a lot of diversity, I love that. I love the candies, the malls and the shops, the houses, the way people live. I love Halloween and Christmas decorations, people take it seriously here!

How does the cost of living in USA compare to home?
Well if I compare to Bordeaux and not Paris, life is more expensive here in Chicago. I've never paid that much for an apartment. On the other hand, electricity is way cheaper in USA. Regarding the food,things like fruits and veggies are very cheap in France while take-out food is expensive; in USA it's the opposite.

Traveling with baby, watching a video in the plane
Traveling with baby, watching a video in the plane
What negatives, if any, are there to living in USA?
in Chicago? The weather! It's so cold outside, I'm stuck indoor with baby. And I heard it wasn't a bad year! I don't have a car and the subway system is not as good as the NYC one. In USA, well the health insurance. I come from a place where it's cheap if not free and it makes me crazy to pay so much for doctors and dentists.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to USA, what would it be?
Do it! (still need a visa but do it!) You don't need to be rich to live your dreams. I often see traveling/expat blogs of people that obviously have a lot, and that's good for them, but it's also possible if you don't have much and it shouldn't be an obstacle. I took a small loan in 2011 to move to NYC and last year I sold my car in order to cover the expenses. Everything is possible if it's your dream.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Arriving. Because I was hoping to find a place to live pretty fast,and it took a couple of months. We lost money applying for apartments and being refused, we had no credit score in USA and landlords wouldn't trust us. I was 8 months pregnant too,it was getting stressful. I needed a place to make baby's bedroom and time was running out. I thought it would be easier.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
Return home? Nah! If I can I'll go live in another country, but France? Maybe when I get very old..and maybe I'll change my mind and go back after all. Who knows? I don't usually think too much ahead.

Visiting our new city
Visiting our new city
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Speak the language. It will be easier and you'll find a job fast too.
  2. Don't give up. You will be afraid and lost sometimes. You will miss your friends and your family and you will cry in the shower once in a while. But it's also awesome and life changing. It's such luck to live that experience!
  3. Stay in touch with your friends and family. Don't do the 'into the wild' thing. They will be there when you need to talk your native language, they will be there when you're homesick, and they will be happy and welcoming when you go back.
  4. Open your eyes, open your mind, take pictures. Take the time to fall in love with the new place. Sit in a park and look around, enjoy the sounds, the smells. That sounds hippy like that, but it's a nice thing to do!
  5. Integrate, meet people, live the USA life. Even if it is important to keep your origins, your way of life, it's also important to mix with the new country's one.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I wanted to share my experience, since it was chaotic at the beginning. I want to give advice a little but mostly share what I love in the country, what I do, what I see, through pictures and words. It's a bilingual blog, more work, but that way French people can read it too.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Through my blog, my e-mail, twitter or Facebook. Yay for social media !

About the author

Expat Blog ListingStéphanie is a French expat living in USA. Blog description: Bilingual blog of a French mom in USA
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